We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Sonnets are racist says SalfordU

Salford University has banned sonnets and suchlike “products of white western culture” from its creative writing course to “decolonise the curriculum”. I say ‘banned’ but they say they merely

“simplified the assessment offering choice”

and I have to admit there is a sense in which ‘simplified’ is the mot juste.

Frequent readers of Samizdata will now be expecting Niall Kilmartin (a.k.a Bilbo Baggins) to inflict some of his own poetic doggerel on you, but as none of mine even try to be any kind of sonnet, I will instead quote Neo’s response to the news.

My grief is deep, as deep as oceans vast
But virtue has its own reward, and so
I’ll give up sonnet-writing, and the past
Can sink beneath the waves of gloom so low.
Old Shakespeare, with his bootless bootless cries
No doubt was white and certainly supreme
Let’s stamp him out, and “colonization” dies.
We’ll show fidelity to the new meme.
Oh Wordsworth, even more forlorn are we.
Bereft of your old counsel, now we stand
On their less wise and quite unpleasant lea
Without the comfort of tradition’s hand.
The poems they write today are stupid shite
And sonnets are too challenging to write.

[If you compare with Neo’s original you will see that Niall get-the-scansion-perfect Kilmartin has made a tiny change at the start of the fourth-last line; feel free to comment and/or upbraid me any who wish. I have also skipped Neo’s link to the meaning of ‘shite’, assuming British readers know it, and transatlantic ones can deduce it from the context and from a certain rather obvious homonym. 🙂 ]

Neo has not offered an example of the modern, de-colonised poem that must now be written instead. Commenters are welcome to fill the lack with genuine examples or their own spoofs, or to share much loved poems, or just to give their opinions.

It was foresighted Robert Conquest who wrote, decades ago, that alongside ‘War is Peace’, ‘Freedom is Slavery’ and ‘Ignorance is Strength’, there was another essential slogan of totalitarianism that Orwell had (surprisingly) omitted:

Rubbish is Art

and of course, its corollary: Art is Rubbish (and racist and …).

Why the West is worth saving

Recommended.

“Disrupting traditional standards of what grant making in philanthropy looks like”

I should never have tried to say the Daily Mail‘s headline detailing the founder of Black Lives Matter’s dodgy deals all in one go.

REVEALED: BLM founder Patrisse Cullors paid her baby father $970,000 for ‘creative services’, her brother $840,000 for security, a fellow director $2.1m and reimbursed the organization $73,000 for a charter flight

But not all the sums were so high:

She paid the foundation an additional $390 over her uses of the 6,500 square-foot Studio City property for two private events.

The chair of BLM’s board of Directors, Cicley Gay, had this to say:

‘We are decolonizing philanthropy,’ Gay said. ‘We, as a board, are charged with disrupting traditional standards of what grant making in philanthropy looks like. It means investing in black communities, trusting them with their dollars.’

I am sure BLM will have no trouble trusting black communities with the last few dollars left over once the organisation has taken its cut.

How not to convince people

I am an atheist – I don’t even seek any cover in the “foxhole” of agnosticism, or pull the “religion isn’t true but it keeps the plebs in line” sort of argument that I have sometimes come across. Full disclosure: I am a confirmed Anglican but fell away over the years, primarily because I could not engage with the idea of belief via faith. I know a lot of people who are religious, if not noisily so. I respect them and love many of them, and vice versa. It really is as simple as that.

Occasionally I come across the phenomenon of the “noisy atheist”, and am reminded what an unlovely creature that is. On my Facebook page, I follow a few groups such as one dedicated to Second World War allied pilots (I am an aviation history geek. Bite me.) Recently, a Canadian pilot, who flew Spitfires in the war, died at the tremendous age of 100. I wrote something along the lines of “Rest in Peace and blue skies to the brave gentleman.” All of a sudden, when I woke up the following day, I noticed that my comment and that of many other people had elicited comments from a person who wrote words to the effect of “religion is crap – grow up” or “your beliefs are a piece of shit”. The person has his own FB page on the subject of military history and makes a big point of his being an atheist. So it is probably not a Russian bot, although one never knows.

What to make of this other than the fact that some people are sociopaths, or just plain unpleasant and in need of some direct lessons in manners? Well, what it proves to me is that if you firmly hold to the idea that belief in a Supreme, omniscient god is nonsense, then it is absolutely fine to express that view, but not in a way that is so rude, or by injecting your views into the conversations of others, and ignoring context completely. Ironically for this digital yob, he has achieved the opposite effect in anyone whom he might have tried to convert, by associating unbelief with rudeness and crassness.

Atheism is the absence of belief, rather than a positive belief in X or Y. (To go further, atheism is the view that the idea of god is incoherent and therefore existence of gods cannot be true. A thing cannot be beyond nature and above it, as a god is, because nature is all of existence and to be outside it makes no sense. (That is my understanding of what atheism is, properly defined.)

There are, in my experience, a great variety of atheists, such as by their political beliefs and for some, belief in political or other ideologies fills a sort of philosophical hole. For other atheists, the lack of belief in a God creates no such “gap” – they have a coherent philosophy of life requiring no props of any kind. That is where I stand. Some atheists can be socialists/collectivists, others on the libertarian, classical liberal/Objectivist end of the spectrum, others traditional conservatives and so on. Some can be agreeable, philosophical and rounded as human beings. Some, alas, are just plain bloody awful. It seems to me that I have encountered the latter.

Anyway, I share these musings to reflect on etiquette and how social media has given opportunities to encounter humans at their best and their worst. On a positive end point, I have met a lot of good people via social media, in terms of actual friends whom I meet for real.

Lend-Lease 2.0 explained

An interesting demystification by the excellent Perun…

“Who said the ‘N’ word?”

Natalie asked, “Can you guess what Lufthansa is talking about here?” For a bonus point, can you guess what word, beginning with ‘N’, the German policeman is prohibiting here?

… Jewish passengers were confronted by a layer of armed police who stood between them and the departure gate. In a scene that conceivably would have won critical praise had it been staged in a dark historical comedy, one of the distressed passengers asked plaintively, “Why do you hate us?” as the officers grimly surveyed them. Then someone else said the word “N—” … one of the offended police officers began barking in a thick German accent, “Who said the ‘N’ word? Who was it?”

[Excerpted from this article, edited to omit some letters following ‘N’ lest these offend any German police readers, or sympathisers thereof.]

One can hardly blame a German policeman for speaking “with a thick German accent”, and in Germany, it is a crime to call a police officer that word. Prudent Germans who wish to use the word without consequences are better advised to apply it to Donald Trump, or to call Israel a ‘N— state’. And prudent Jews who find themselves in Germany were reminded three years ago by the (perhaps unfortunately termed) ‘German anti-semitism commissioner’ to avoid looking Jewish – advice these “visibly Jewish” Lufthansa passengers had completely failed to heed.

I guess one take-away from this is that, next time anyone make a fuss about “the ‘N’ word”, they’ll need (and frequently deserve!) to be asked, “Which one?” Commenters are welcome to add any other take-aways that occur to them.

Convinced governments have massive cash reserves they’re keeping from you just to be evil?

Then you will LOVE this ABSOLUTELY FREE (and gloriously 70’s K-Tel) video brought to you by “Mercurius”, “SNP Economics Explained”. It isn’t just for Scotland. It works for YOUR government, too, GUARANTEED.

Because everything is easily solved by pledging more money.
No tax rises required.
No cuts to other services.
No need to set the conditions for a growing economy to take in more tax.
A fairer society means pledging to pay for everything, absolutely FREE
It’s that easy!
Have a £5,000 cash injection every day.
Hell, why not have £10,000?
Now that’s compassionate!

A formula for failure

There is a shortage of baby milk in the US. Few fears are more primal than that of not being able to feed your baby. Parents across America are stressed and angry. (Some people, however, find the situation amusing.) One of the many reasons to like unbridled capitalism is that by reducing scarcity it reduces conflict. Whenever there is a shortage people become angry when they see others getting what they cannot get.

“Texas governor criticises Biden administration for giving baby formula to migrant children”, writes the Independent. There are several things worth discussing there. It would be unconscionable not to give formula to children who need it, but the knowledge that “Uncle Sam will provide” probably is a factor attracting illegal immigrants to the US, including children both accompanied and unaccompanied. The consequences of that can be horrible.

However the thing that struck me most about this story was tucked away as background information:

A recall of formula produced at a Michigan manufacturing facility – along with a Covid-19-fuelled supply chain issues – has made formula difficult for families to find, or subject to purchase limits in stores, after manufacturers shut down and warehouse stocks were recalled but not replaced. US formula is largely monopolised, with stringent regulations on imports; shortages from the recall are compounded by demand among a handful of companies relying on the same fragile supply chain.

President Biden has called on federal agencies to help address the shortages, including easing rules that manufacturers must follow for their products to be eligible under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which supports low-income families.

Few dare argue when “stringent regulations on imports” and “rules that manufacturers must follow” are introduced under the cry of “We must protect the children!” Yet now that the children are being protected half to death, these measures seem astonishingly hard to remove.

Update: Eric Boehm of Reason magazine has more detail: America’s Trade and Regulatory Policies Have Contributed to the Baby Formula Shortage

Thanks to strict FDA regulations and oppressive tariffs, America is already largely dependent on only domestic suppliers for infant formula: America exports far more than it imports every year.

That’s exactly the situation the economic nationalist want in all industries—and we’re now seeing exactly how that can go wrong. Cutting off foreign trade and protecting domestic suppliers can make a country more vulnerable to unexpected supply problems, not more resilient.

The Matrix Preloaded

I thought that after most of a lifetime reading science fiction and alternate history I knew all the ways Hitler could have won World War II if just one little thing had turned out differently, but I had never heard of this one:

Onthisday.com for May 12th included this entry:

1941 Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin

W-w-what? Straight to Wikipedia I went. Here is the entry for the Z3:

The Z3 was completed in Berlin in 1941. It was not considered vital, so it was never put into everyday operation. Based on the work of the German aerodynamics engineer Hans Georg Küssner (known for the Küssner effect), a “Program to Compute a Complex Matrix”[b] was written and used to solve wing flutter problems. Zuse asked the German government for funding to replace the relays with fully electronic switches, but funding was denied during World War II since such development was deemed “not war-important”.

The original Z3 was destroyed on 21 December 1943 during an Allied bombardment of Berlin.

Well, good. While it is interesting to speculate on how the development of the computer might have been different, it sounds like the Lord guided the bomb-aimer’s hand on that occasion.

Anyone know, how close did they come?

Samizdata quote of the day

“A majority of Americans want companies to stay out of politics. They want to have a separate space for where they shop, where they work, and where they invest from the places where they cast their ballots or engage in their political debates.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, a young businessman and author of Woke Inc. He is critical of the current trend of firms, and asset managers such as BlackRock, seemingly putting non-financial goals before those to do with actually earning a return for investors.

This ghastly “Conservative” government – a continuing series

The UK government wants, among other things set out in its Parliamentary legislative agenda, to regulate football as an industry. The country that invented association football, known as soccer in certain barbarian regions, more than a century ago, is now to have it regulated by the State. Some form of quasi-autonomous non-governmental body, aka Quango, will be set up to oversee the sport. I am sure there will be keen interest in the sort of worthies who will be nominated to run this body. No doubt all the warnings in the past about how regulators can be “captured” by the entities being regulated will be ignored, as ignored as all the other lessons about the dangers of putting the State in charge of such matters.

It is all utterly pointless: the process is in train. Take the aforementioned linked article by the BBC – all the complaints are that the legislation to bring about a regulator isn’t happening fast enough, or is wide enough in scope. The idea that no such State regulator is needed, and that such a move represents a further assault on the autonomous institutions of civil society, is completely absent. Football leagues and associations are effectively gutted from within. What next: a State regulator for bridge, arm-wrestling and golf?

A mark of so-called “conservatives” is that the importance of autonomous institutions, of the dangers of regulatory “mission creep”, are part of their thinking. (This publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs gives a good summary of why State regulation of such activity is a mistake.)

The administration led by Mr Johnson is not remotely conservative in any profound sense. Of course, dear reader, you knew that. What I offer here is merely further evidence confirming it, and why the drift towards “bread and circus” politics, with a mix of oafish authortarianism, neglect of real reform, and fecklessness on energy and spending, is going to continue.

Bad times.

Update: I have thought about my grumpy words above – and don’t apologise for them – and wondered if there is more that needs saying. To play Devil’s Advocate, advocates of a football regulator would argue, perhaps, that the game is big business; further, it affects cities’ economic welfare quite a bit now. Lots of foreigners with interesting tax and financial affairs play here. As we have seen recently with Chelsea being forced to part ways with Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, some of the ownership of football today is murky, to say the least. And football also has a bearing on health, public order (misbehaviour of fans is, sadly, still a thing). So for all these reasons we need a regulator. But I disagree. First, we already have anti-money laundering/KYC laws to check the financial bona fides of people/firms that want to buy clubs. The laws already exist – the job is to enforce them. Employment contracts, tax, etc, are matters for the existing body of laws in a country. Crowd control is a matter where clubs can agree to work with law enforcement, for a fee.

Given the foregoing, I don’t understand what a regulator will do that could not be done already. If people are worried about corrupt practices, or clubs cheating the rules on buying players, then however annoying this is, these aren’t matters for a regulator, but where relevant, for law authorities.

It is hard to avoid concluding that this regulator will end up being gamed (sorry for that pun) by the industry it is designed to oversee, and will be a focus for the usual political types aiming to appeal to the “Man on the street” by taking postures over football.

Can you guess what Lufthansa is talking about here?

This is possibly the most weaselly statement since the coppers interviewed the Chief Weasel after the retaking of Toad Hall.

Statement of May 10, 2022 on the denied boarding of passengers on flight LH 1334

On May 4, a large number of booked passengers were denied boarding on their onward flight with LH 1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest. Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.

While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests.

We apologize to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense caused and personal impact.
Lufthansa and its employees stand behind the goal of connecting people and cultures worldwide. Diversity and equal opportunity are core values for our company and our corporate culture. What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values.

My challenge to readers is to guess without sight of the internet what the “large group” had in common that caused them to be denied boarding – they were not flying together – and exactly what the “non compliant guests” were non-compliant about. Winners will be awarded the sought-after title of Wieselbeobachtersmeister, or something with most of the same syllables anyway.

Actually I do not find this sort of thing funny. Weasels are cute. Lufthansa’s behaviour was not cute, it was shameful, and they deserve to pay the heavy price they will pay.

But…

I also believe that the payment should come from the airline being boycotted by all decent people and/or from them being sued until they have no more Sitzfleisch left for their egregious breach of contract, not from the German or American governments. The proliferation of laws against every tiny, even unintentional, manifestation of this sort of thing has atrophied people’s own sense of its gross wrongness. They can’t see it in themselves. The Lufthansa representative on the scene was apologetic, but firm. She probably congratulated herself on a difficult job well done.

Edit: Originally I included no links in this post in order to make the guessing game more fun. But on second thoughts I ought to credit Ed Driscoll at Instapundit, where I first read about this. No peeking.